27 March 2012

Digging out the real archaeological experience

"Digging Out: Archaeology Makes a Comeback in Iraq" is a wonderful recent report/documentary by Four Corners Media on the December 2011 excavation season by American and Iraqi archaeologists in southern Iraq just outside the ancient city of Ur.

I love this video not only because it is a hopeful message of renewed collaboration between American and Iraqi archaeologists, but it also perfectly captures the day-to-day activities on a typical archaeological excavation in the Middle East. The 5:00AM rush to the site for another day of work, communal meals around the kitchen table, laboratory time in the afternoon washing pottery or running the flotation tank--all of these things are part of the daily rhythm of a project, and things that I miss dearly about fieldwork.

It's been 4 years since I was out and my eye is beginning to twitch for it, especially now that spring has come around and most archaeologists are looking for the light at the end of the semester-tunnel: that light being the bright sun on a clear day out on the tell, nothing but me, my trench, my trowel, and ancient history.

Other than the physical enjoyment I find in working with my hands outside in the dirt, there is the mental aspects of fieldwork. The lack of sleep is a bummer, but Professor Stone really hits the nail on the head when she says there is a certain camaraderie and sense of community that develops on a dig that is very different than what we experience here at home. It really is something special, and the folks I have excavated with I consider some of my closest friends.

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